Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jesus' Bosom Friends: A Great Chasm (2016-0925)

ROOTS 2016: The Hymns of Charles Wesley
09/25/2016 Christ Mountain Top
Luke 16:19-31 (message)
Luke 16:1-13 (kids)
Psalm 146 (call to worship)

This week we conclude our series of messages on hymns of Charles Wesley. We’ve looked at a couple standards, and one that has fallen into disuse. Today we look at one that was never published in his lifetime and never made major hymn collections. But it vividly recreates themes of Luke 16, both the story of the shrewd unrighteous manager we shared with the children and the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Wesley borrows much of his lyric from the biblical text, enough so that some people say that if we lost the Scriptures, we could recreate much of it from Wesley’s 9000 hymns.

Two phrases in the biblical text will structure our reflection today, both phrases used to describe social distance:
      “at his gate”
      “a great chasm”
As we contemplate what it means for the poor man Lazarus to be “at our gate”, we will examine the social agenda of the Wesleys and the early Methodist movement.
      As we consider the great chasm “between you and us”, we will examine the salvation language of the story, including echoes found elsewhere in Luke’s gospel.

I’d like to begin our examination of the social agenda of the Wesley’s with the Three General Rules of the United Societies, written by John Wesley for the people called Methodists.  For each of these simple rules, Wesley offers examples of what it means to follow them, and these examples include many social and economic dimensions, particularly in the first two rules (excerpted text, available at and in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church):

1. Do no harm:
      The taking of the name of God in vain.
      The profaning of the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling.
      Slaveholding: buying or selling slaves.
      The giving or taking things on usury–i.e., unlawful interest.
      Laying up treasure on earth.
      Borrowing without a probability of paying; or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Migrants in Central America

Global Ministries Missionary James Perdue illuminates the call of the church and local agencies to aid migrants in Central America that includes a focus on human rights.
Henri Aguilar with his one-year old daughter Genesis in the yard of their home. This photo was captured May 2, 2007. On May 7, 2007, he was assassinated by three masked men. Aguilar was a former member of the Mara Salvatrucha, but under the guidance of a Catholic program had left the gang and was married, working full-time, and heavily involved in parish life. Photo: Paul Jeffrey

by James D. Perdue

The churches in Mexico are suddenly realizing a new call. Mexico has not done a lot of advocacy work around migrant issues, but we have discovered a lawyer in Monterrey who says: “I don’t want to be a pastor. I want to help these people get legal status.”
We focus heavily on guaranteeing human rights. People have a right to stay where they are rather than being forced to migrate. They have the right to safe passage when they choose to migrate, the right to fair treatment in the countries to which they flee, and the right to safe passage and repatriation if they should be returned to their home countries. Along the way, some overriding humanitarian needs surface, and the local agencies we work with provide the necessary aid.
In El Salvador, community members are often threatened by violent gangs. Despite death threats, many families won’t yield. They simply can’t allow their children to be forced into gang membership. Their only other option is to flee. Having only 48 hours before the gangs come back to carry out their threat, these family members get up in the middle of the night and leave for the United States.

The local agencies that partner with us provide threatened families with protected houses for up to three months. They take steps to ensure that the families can’t be found. Meanwhile, teams of lawyers help the migrants secure the documentation they need to settle in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, or Panama—the trip to the United States being far too dangerous. Our partner agencies try to help people understand the risks and to weigh their more realistic options. Still, some emigrants decide to take unnecessary risks in the hope of reaching the USA. Instead they often get returned to their home countries. The emerging network of agencies that we helped to develop in Mexico work along the migration corridors to make sure that the migrants’ human needs and rights are protected.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Come Traveler: Bless Me (2016-0918)

ROOTS: The Hymns of Charles Wesley
09/18/2016 Christ Mountain Top
Call to worship, Psalm 121
Children, Luke 18.35-43
Message, Genesis 32 (reading 32.21-32)

This is quite a story, but to get the full picture we have to know a little more about Jacob than what we have here. It is a fascinating account, worth a whole series of messages, but I will only summarize it here, since we are concerned with a separate series: The Hymns of Charles Wesley, who was one of the founding figures of the Methodist movement, the writer of over 9000 hymns, and the youngest of 18 children!

Jacob and his brother Esau are twins, and Jacob is the youngest.  In the womb, he and his brother Esau were wrestling each other.  God declared, in conflict with typical practice in the culture, that the older would serve the younger.  In the culture, the oldest son received two special considerations.  First: The birthright, the right to a double share of the inheritance.  Second: The blessing, a special blessing conferred by the father on the oldest that granted him status as head of the family and conferred other blessings as well.
      The boys grew up, Jacob as mama’s favorite and Esau as daddy’s boy, Jacob as the farmer and Esau as the hunter.  One day, Jacob took advantage of Esau’s hunger and traded a bowl of soup for the birthright.  Esau went away angry, angry at his brother and probably angry at himself but, like many folks, he was more comfortable blaming someone else for something he could easily have prevented.
      Then, when the father, Isaac, now blind and infirm, became ill, Jacob, with mama’s help, presented himself in Esau’s place and stole the blessing from Esau.  Esau declared that he would kill Jacob as soon as their father died, so Jacob left the country and lived with his mother’s family in another land.

There, he fell in love and married his cousins, the two daughters of Laban, who showed himself to be a match for Jacob in many ways.  Things escalated over time – Jacob spent 14 years working for his uncle to pay off the bride price and more time after that to make his fortune – and Jacob fled with his family and livestock back to Palestine.  Uncle Laban finally caught up with them, with his sons and armed men, but God appeared to Laban and prevented him from harming Jacob.

Jacob burned his bridges and there is no going back.  But ahead of him is his brother Esau with a welcoming party of 400 armed men.  No wonder he sends gifts ahead, divides up his family and livestock, and is left alone to face . . . not Esau, not his demons, but a man who comes to wrestle with him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hurricane season

Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Hermine, and Newton all sound like the start of a guest list for dinner. But this ‘guest’ list is really a series of tropical storms and hurricanes, some of which arrived long before the ringing of the dinner bell—the official start of thehurricane season (June 1-Nov. 30).

This year, weather forecasters predict that the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane season will be an above average season, and the most active since 2012.  

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) knows that individuals, churches, and communities must always be in a state of preparedness because disasters can strike at any time. Being prepared means that you have a sense of control and hope during an unexpected event, and you are in a better position to assist your neighbors.  

Be in-the-know about hurricane or disaster preparedness.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Habitat pics (2 of 2)

Thanks to Steve for leading our team. Exciting to begin work in a new location.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Arise, My Soul: Your Sin Is Blotted Out (2016-0911)

ROOTS: The Hymns of Charles Wesley
09/11/2016 Christ Mountain Top
Hebrews 10.12-22 (Message)
Isaiah 6.1-8 (Kids)
Psalm 65, p 789-790, with sung response

ROOTS: The Hymns of Charles Wesley
      one of the great writers (lyricist) of sacred songs in history
      not because of great poetry, but
            sheer volume of output
            powerful use of biblical themes

      Purpose of ROOTS series, and this in particular
            staying connected to our tradition
Jaroslav Pelikan: Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living; tradition is the living faith of the dead.
            growing as worshipers

First published in the 1742 as “Behold the Man”
      Focus on the cross of Christ, particularly the blood of Jesus
      With the original title, Pilate’s presentation of Jesus, John 19.5

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Flooded church gathers for worship

August 21, 2016
“Alright, resurrection people. We’re getting ready to worship God in a funeral home,” said the Rev. Ginny Allen, pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. Members of the suburban Baton Rouge church were gathered Sunday morning in the chapel of the city’s Rabenhorst East Funeral Home because St. Luke’s sanctuary took on 28 inches of water during historic floods that struck the capital area just over a week ago.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Prayer upon the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna! Lord, save!

Today, Lord, we remember the events of fifteen years ago:
            The shock of four passenger jets turned into weapons
            The horror of the Twin Towers crumbling in dust and ashes

We remember our pride
As men and women in blue, firefighters, and other first responders rushed into danger and death with no hesitation
As men and women in uniform emerged from the Pentagon rubble
As a bunch of normal citizens took down their own jet in order to preserve lives and stand against terror
As the nations of the world mourned with us

We remember the sense of oneness we felt as a nation
Our President reminding us of the value of diversity in our democracy,
Reminding us that our military response was not a crusade against Islam.
No matter whether we were Christian or Muslim, liberal or conservative
            We were one nation under God

We remember the years since:
Wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq
The capture and death of Osama bin Laden
And, when we hoped that peace might be around the corner,
            Terror and violence took a new face

Here at home, the spotlight shines on the things that divide us as people and as a nation:
We have learned to fear Arabs and Islam
We talk about the 1% and the 99%
We find it tragically necessary to remind ourselves that black lives matter, that gay lives matter, that blue lives matter
And the Klan makes attempts to recruit in our own community
We are reminded of the uncomfortable truth that, though all are created equal, we are not all equal in opportunity, access, legal protections, or hope.

Forgive us for our fear of those who are different from us.
Forgive us for slapping labels on people who, like us, are made in your image.
Forgive us for settling for a world in conflict when you have called us to be peacemakers.

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
            Come, Lord Jesus and be
            The Prince of Peace,
            Healer of our brokenness,
            And Hope of the world.

Hosanna! Lord, save!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Thanks from West Virginia

Photo by: Mike DuBose, UMNS
White Sulphur Springs, WV - June 28, 2016

"I thank my God always for you, because of God's grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus ... God is faithful, and you were called by him to partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."
1 Corinthians 1:4,9

My Dear Friends in the Susquehanna Conference,

The historic and devastating flooding in West Virginia this summer has created an outpouring of generosity from caring friends across the country. Your generous gift provides the resources we need to supply, equip, and support our broken and hurting families.

As partners together with those of us working on the ground, we proclaim with confidence that we will remain steadfast until our job is done. Because of your generosity we are able to stand together with those affected to show how the power of love overcomes the forces of nature!

Thank you so much for your gift. May God richly bless you!

Ken Krimmel and West Virginia Conference Center Staff

P.S. You may follow our recovery efforts online at

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Fifteen years later ... our hope remains only in the cross.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Massacre in East Congo

By Judith Yanga
Aug. 22, 2016 | UMNS
A United Methodist youth leader in the city of Beni came home from shopping on Aug. 13 to find members of his family and neighbors massacred in an attack blamed on the rebel Allied Democratic Forces, a group linked to Islamists in Uganda.
The group that attacked Beni, a city in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, reportedly killed 60 people. A United Methodist pastor also reported two of his sisters were killed in the attack and said the number of dead was closer to 100.
The youth leader, whose name is being withheld for his protection, said he had tarried at his usual Saturday morning shopping and arrived home to find his family dead. Neighbors who heard the family being attacked came to help and were also killed.
"I tell you it is the grace of God that I am alive today. I could also be part of the list of the dead," he said.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

O for a Thousand Tongues: Not Disobedient to the Heavenly Vision

09/04/2016 Christ Mountain Top
Acts 26
2 Kings 7 (kids)
Psalm 40.1-11 (call to worship)

A few years back, I was listening to a lecture by church historian Diana Butler-Bass (2009 audio, Christianity21, JoPa Productions).  She referred to a television interview of Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, who had just received a Pulitzer for a biography of Andrew Jackson.  The interviewer, Joe Scarborough, asked, “Why don’t you write about something relevant [as opposed to history]?”  Meacham’s response: “History is to a country what memory is to an individual.”
      Butler-Bass reminded her listeners of the pain of memory loss or caring for family members with memory loss.  She, borrowing Meacham, declared, “History is to a church what memory is to an individual.”  And she went on to say that history brings wholeness (the wholeness of a clear and honest memory) and that people who study history are more open to change, because they really have seen it all before.  In God’s economy, memory doesn’t tie us to the past but to the future, to promise.

Each fall, I like to do a message series I call ROOTS.  I believe it is important for us to learn our history and the basics of our tradition, whether it is the movements of grace in Wesleyan theology, the practice of prayer and reading Scripture, or (this year) hymns by Charles Wesley.  It’s an effort to keep us rooted in a history and tradition that is older than us, older than our memories and our grandparents’ memories.
      Charles Wesley and his brother John were the two founding figures of the Methodist movement.  John was the organizer and the best known preacher, but Charles wrote some 9,000 hymns!  The 51 Charles Wesley hymns in our hymnal, more than any other author, are only a small portion of his gift to the church.
      I love the hymn “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”.  It originally had 18 verses, 17 of which are included in our hymnal.  If you look at the notes in the hymnal, you will see that Charles Wesley wrote it in 1739 to commemorate an anniversary, the anniversary of his conversion May 21, 1738.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Korea Story, with 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

Greg Myers shared lessons from the church in Korea, including the following outstanding characteristics:

  1. Vibrant prayer, Spirit-filled
  2. Singing - FAST!
  3. Committed to tithing
  4. Radically hospitable
  5. Community bridging
  6. Global mission

Thanks Greg for sharing your story!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Post-Ebola children's camp in Sierra Leone

Sylvanette Tawah, a program coordinator at the 2016 children’s camp in Moyamba, Sierra Leone, carries a toddler as she teaches campers a new song. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS
By Phileas Jusu
Aug. 11, 2016 | MOYAMBA, Sierra Leone (UMNS)

The Sierra Leone Conference has wrapped up its first post-Ebola children’s camp at Harford School for Girls here. The program ended with a thanksgiving service at the city’s Trinity United Methodist Church.
The one-week camp of mainly United Methodist children was suspended in 2014 and 2015 amid the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which caused more than 11,000 deaths worldwide, the majority of them in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization.
Olivia Fonnie, director of Christian Education and Specialized Ministry to Children for the conference, said about 210 children attended Camp 2016 held July 25-31, the highest camp enrollment she has seen as director.
“The children are excited after having missed out on camping (the two previous years),” she said.
“One of our responsibilities in the church is nurturing the children for Christian life, and we believe that bringing the children together for a week and teaching them the word of God and Christian ways, creating the opportunity for them to meet new friends and learning from one another will shape their lives for the future.
“We also believe that children coming from the cities and meeting others from remote rural communities, who struggle with very few opportunities, will (help them) learn to appreciate what God has given them,” Fonnie said.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

There Is a Time (Honoring Jack)

The choir, and choir veterans, gather and perform an anthem as a way to thank and honor him for his 16 years of service leading music ministry at Christ Church.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Jesus on Anxiety 2016-0821

Call to Worship, Psalm 25.11-22
Children, Exodus 14
Message, Luke 12.4-7

One of the classic Far Side cartoons is captioned, “The Lemming family on vacation”.  The drawing is of an automobile with stereotypical family: dad lemming in the driver seat, mom lemming in the passenger seat, and kid lemmings in the back.  An exasperated dad, responding to any one of a hundred potential driving distractions by children, cries out, “If you (fill in the blank with your offense of choice – don’t shut up, don’t sit still, stop asking me how much longer) ... If you ... I’m going to drive this car right off a cliff!”

FEAR ... it’s such a wonderful motivation.  It might give us power-broking parents the upper hand in a given situation, but, generally, fear is a wonderful motivation for wrong-headed decision-making, risk-averse thinking, status quo entrenchment, attachment disorders and lack of commitment. 
      And, we’ve struck gold with this one, the big time: The Fear of Hell.  When I was a teen, the church our family attended had an old fashioned revival, complete with graphic preaching on hell.  And I remember one guy who got himself converted that week ... but it didn’t really seem to “take”.  Within a couple years, he’d run his life and his faith completely aground.
      Thomas Merton, Cistercian monk, reflected on one of the first “hell sermons” he heard: “My opinion is that it is a very extraordinary thing for anyone to be upset by such a topic.  Why should anyone be shattered by the thought of hell?  It is not compulsory for anyone to go there.  Those who do, do so by their own choice, and against the will of God . . .” (The Seven Storey Mountain, p 238).
      The fact remains that hell is an upsetting topic for most of us, and we deal with it in various ways.  Sometimes, we just shut our mind to the biblical language.  Sometimes, and preferably, we look for deeper biblical understanding (there are, after all, a variety of theological approaches to the biblical material).  Sometimes, we thrive on some good “hell fire and brimstone”.  Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest minds in the history of America, is known for preaching what may be one of the all-time greatest messages on hell.  Remarkably enough, though his writing is extraordinarily dramatic, he read in a monotone and didn’t look up from the page.  Nevertheless, this pastor was used by God in one of the great revival movements of history known as the Great Awakening.  Some lines from his July 8, 1741, sermon, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”, read with a bit more drama than he provided:

The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.
      You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder ...